Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Greater Love ...

"Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends." John 15:13

Jesus spoke those words to his Disciples, knowing that they would, in fact die for His sake, as He would die for their sake, and the sake of all humanity. And He uses the phrase 'lay down one's life' as a voluntary act. For this is love: to do something of your own will to help or protect another. And Jesus had prefaced that statement with this:

John 15:12 "This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you."

For already Jesus knew that He would have to lay down His own life. Voluntarily. In fact no one in all of human history has ever done what Jesus did, after He allowed Himself to be punished for the Sins of all mankind. He picked up that life again. No one else has ever done so. And He did that to prove the Resurrection. All who would partake of His gift would be resurrected at the End.

Already He had proven His own power to give life back to the Dead. And he did it in, what was for Him, a painful way. He allowed His very best friend to die. This is not something that is given great gravity in the New Testament, for there is much in the Scriptures that needs explaining and the death of Lazarus, and Christ's power to bring him back from the dead, is somehow merely a secondary phenomenom. So, when John describes the actions of Jesus which lead up to His raising Lazarus from the dead, we find the shortest sentence in the entire Bible. And one which is so profound in its depth and breadth:

"Jesus wept." John 11:35

Nowhere in the New Testament do we see Jesus weeping for anybody. Only this man, the brother of Martha and Mary, Lazarus, who was a friend of Jesus.

Yet, when He learns that Lazarus is gravely ill, and perhaps dying, what does Jesus do? He waits. For two days, days when He and the Disciples could have been on the road, and on their way to Bethany to help this man, Lazarus, Jesus tarries. Waiting. For what?

To hear that Lazarus has died. His friend. He waits until there is no way to save Lazarus, heal him; Jesus allows His dear friend to die. And He does so because He knows He must prepare His Disciples for something greater than the miracles He has performed before.

Yes, He changed water into wine, He cleansed Lepers, and made the blind see. His miracles were wonderous! But they were 'small potatoes' compared to what He was going to do in Bethany. As much as He loved Lazarus, He loved His Disciples, indeed all humanity, as much. And so He let Lazarus die to show the world just what powers GOD has. And one of those powers He was about to perform before many people.

The Scripture recounts this for us: John 11:1-4:
Now a certain [man] was sick, [named] Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha.

John 11:2 (It was [that] Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.)

John 11:3 Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick.

John 11:4 When Jesus heard [that], he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.

We don't usually think of illness as a way to Glorify GOD. But Jesus knew that there was something important that Lazarus' death was going to prove. And as usual, His Disciples weren't quite in sync with the Lord. The story continues:
John 11:5 Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.

John 11:6 When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was.

John 11:7 Then after that saith he to [his] disciples, Let us go into Judaea again.

John 11:8 [His] disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again?

John 11:9 Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world.

John 11:10 But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him.

John 11:11 These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.

John 11:12 Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well.

John 11:13 Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep.

John 11:14 Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.

He had to explain that this was not simply a sleeping, or comatose, man. He knew that Lazarus had died. And He gives them a hint:
John 11:15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him.

Thomas says they should all go with Him and die with Him. But, of course, that wasn't what Jesus had in store.

John 11:17 Then when Jesus came, he found that he had [lain] in the grave four days already.

John 11:18 Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off:

John 11:19 And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.

John 11:20 Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat [still] in the house.

John 11:21 Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.

John 11:22 But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give [it] thee.

John 11:23 Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again.

John 11:24 Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.

John 11:25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:

John 11:26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?

John 11:27 She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.

John 11:28 And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee.

Martha, along with the Samarian woman in another story, knew who He was. They knew it on Faith, and they knew it long before any of His Disciples had figured it out. They knew it in their hearts. And now here comes Mary, Lazarus' sister, who had been grieving for her beloved brother.

John 11:29 As soon as she heard [that], she arose quickly, and came unto him.

John 11:30 Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha met him.

John 11:31 The Jews then which were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up hastily and went out, followed her, saying, She goeth unto the grave to weep there.

John 11:32 Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.

John 11:33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled,

John 11:34 And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see.

John 11:35 Jesus wept.

John 11:36 Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him!

John 11:37 And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died?

John 11:38 Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it.

Mary knew He had power, but not the depth of that power. Notice how the people around knew of Jesus and His miracles? They were in for a show of Love and Power they had never seen.

John 11:39 Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been [dead] four days.

John 11:40 Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?

John 11:41 Then they took away the stone [from the place] where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up [his] eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.

John 11:42 And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said [it], that they may believe that thou hast sent me.

John 11:43 And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.
Jesus doesn't speak of His Glory, but that of His Father. And He speaks to GOD and explains why He is doing this thing now. Jesus knows His power comes from GOD, the very source of Love. And He calls on GOD, not Himself.
John 11:44 And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.

John 11:45 ¶ Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him.

Jesus did this out of Love. He did it at great price to His own Spirit. He grieved for His friend, and could have cured him with a thought. But He waited until His friend had died to go to him and help. He did that out of love for us.

Shortly after this, having taught all that He could to His followers and those who believed in Him, he would be betrayed, tried, and crucified for our sakes. And then He would lay down His life for three days.

When He rose from the dead, Jesus did for Himself that which He had already done for Lazarus. Now He was doing it for all Humanity. And He did this, at the behest of His Father, GOD Himself, out of Love.



Eric said...

On one occasion Jesus said, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up."
--John 2:19-21. This was WAY before Lazarus' death and subsequent resurrection. Also, Jesus had been telling His disciples again and again how the Son of man must be lifted up so He could draw all men to Him... For the most part His disciples didn't understand. But Lazarus wasn't the first person Jesus called back from the dead. There was a young girl, the daughter of Jairus in Mark 5 and Luke 8, then there was the widow's son in Luke 7. But these could have been explained away... the girl wasn't really dead, nor was the widow's son-- they were what? in comas? But Lazarus... he was dead and buried 4 days! There's NO explaining THAT one away.

Perhaps Jesus' purpose in raising Lazarus was to demonstrate the surety of His own prophesy; that He would rise from the dead three days after he is "lifted up". And to demonstrate His position as God's son, no one would have to call HIm forth as He did with Lazarus. He would lay down His life of His own free will, and by His own power He would take it back up.... much like you or I might pick up a shirt we discarded the night before to wear it again, except while Jesus was sleeping His father washed, pressed, and neatly folded His son's "shirt".

Great Post! Thanks for the insight.

Brooke said...

The greatest love of all!

joni said...

Wow! I feel an affect that has washed over the dearest of friends. This is a significant post.